Thank you to Versify and NetGalley for the eARC to read and review! Just Right Jillian releases February 1, 2022.
Genre: Middle Grade
Recommend to Others?: Yes
ABOUT: In this heartfelt middle-grade novel from debut author Nicole D. Collier, fifth-grader Jillian must learn to speak and break free of her shell to enter her school’s academic competition and keep her promise to her grandmother.
Fifth-grader Jillian will do just about anything to blend in, including staying quiet even when she has the right answer. After she loses a classroom competition because she won’t speak up, she sets her mind on winning her school’s biggest competition. But breaking out of her shell is easier said than done, and Jillian has only a month to keep her promise to her grandmother and prove to herself that she can speak up and show everyone her true self.
A warm and relatable middle-grade debut novel about family, friendship, and finding the confidence to break free from the crowd and be who you truly are.
REVIEW: To feel seen, to be heard, and the freedom to be yourself are some of the most empowering things in the world – Just Right Jillian embodies this and more.
The wonder that is Just Right Jillian will forever hold a special place in my heart. It’s rare that I come across a character I feel a deep, personal connection to. Jillian’s story was so much like looking in a mirror that I couldn’t help but get emotional at times.
Jillian is many things – smart, a warrior weaver, an expert at hanging upside-down, kind. But many see her as a kind of awkwardly shy turtle if they see her at all, she feels. Though her family always supports and encourages her, saying she’s just right as herself, Jillian isn’t convinced because words are often “too big” to get out of her mouth. She can’t help but believe it’s better to conform and hide (be invisible) than be different and stand out. People-ing and speaking are a struggle for sure!
Jillian wants to enter her school’s Mind Bender academic competition (and maybe win), so that she can prove her worth and keep a promise to her Grammy. Jillian’s journey is challenging because of her low self-esteem and continued grief over the recent loss of her Grammy.
The path towards Mind Bender and being the Jillian she wants to be is a mesmerizing undertaking with exceptional character development. There were as many steps forwards as there are steps back. I love Jillian’s strength and resolve to be better. Even when she feels she hasn’t made any progress towards her goal, with the love and support from her friends and family, she continues to try her best.
I loved the close, loving relationship Jillian has with her parents through the good times and the bad. I also loved her friendship with one of her classmates, Marquez. They’re very kind to each other, offering helpful advice whenever the other is feeling troubled. Marquez’s advice was really wise. I liked his philosophy of being JTRA (just the right amount) and that you can overcome your fears by training your heart. Even the relationship between Jillian and her supposed enemy, Rashida (known for her smarts and also a classmate), was wonderfully developed and special.
A fun part of the story was Jillian’s class raising chickens. It was interesting learning the process of what happens inside the eggs from the time they’re laid to when the chickens hatch. I like how Jillian made connections with the eggs to her own predicament and how she could find a solution to it.
Just Right Jillian is a book I wish I had when I was younger and beyond. This book made me feel so seen and for that I really appreciate it. Indeed, Just Right Jillian is a marvelous debut with a ton of heart. Short, sweet, and oh-so endearing.